US: West Bank settlement activity undermines peace efforts

United States "doesn't accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity," says State Dep't spokesman; housing and construction minister says 551 new homes to be built in addition to 300 in Beit El.

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER,
June 6, 2012 22:23
1 minute read.
Ulpana outpost near Beit El

Ulpana outpost near Beit El 370 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)

 
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The US on Wednesday condemned the government's decision to expand settlement construction, saying that it undermines peace efforts.

The statement came following the government's announcement that 551 new housing units would be built in the West Bank.

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"Continued Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank undermines peace efforts and contradicts Israeli commitments and obligations including the 2003 Roadmap," a State Department spokesman said on Wednesday evening.

"The US position on Israeli settlements is clear," he said. "We do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. We also oppose any effort to legalize settlement outposts."

Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias announced Wednesday evening that the new housing units would comprise 117 units in Ariel, 92 in Ma'aleh Adumim, 114 in Adam, 114 in Efrat and 84 in Kiryat Arba. They will be built in addition to the three hundred that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has already promised to build in Beit El following the evacuation of the apartment buildings in the West Bank outpost Ulpana.

This decision was reached in a conversation Wednesday between Netanyahu and Atias.

"Increasing the supply of land helps young couples, and construction in the West Bank strengthens the settlements. Although 30 apartments will be evacuated, 850 will be built instead. Under the circumstances, this is the appropriate solution," said Atias.

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Earlier Wednesday, in a televised statement Netanyahu said that the government is in the midst of a very complex environment, and is upholding democracy and strengthening the overall settlement enterprise in its decision over the Ulpana outpost.

A bill to legalize the West Bank outpost was defeated by a vote of 69-22 on Wednesday.

Netanyahu said that the government had acted with responsibility and discretion, and thanked his coalitions partners.

He expressed sympathy for the pain of the families living in the Ulpana outpost who are due to be evacuated. However, he said, "you have to understand, we are working in a very complex reality; internally, internationally and in terms of the law."

He emphasized that his government would continue to strengthen the settlements, at the same time as strengthening democracy in Israel.   

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